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We're Not Entitled, We're Just Screwed

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When it comes to technology, apparently my generation are an auspicious lot.

We don't need anyone's permission to start a free blog of our choosing, Twitter keeps us both informed and engrossed in current affairs, Facebook enables us to connect and conspire with old friends and fresh acquaintances, and LinkedIn allows us search for new jobs and associates -- all from the comfort of our smartphones.

With this in mind, many critics argue that us Gen Y'ers should be more grateful for these technological liberties we've grown into -- after all, thanks to the unprecedented informational access afforded by the Internet, we've become the most culturally conscious, socially boisterous, and politically self-aware generation in history.

Yet the way I see it, this heightened sense of self-awareness vis-à-vis the workings of the world and our precarious place within it is as much a burden as it is a blessing. For we've grown up with the world at our fingertips, raised on the assumption that our financial prospects would be the same, if not greater, than those of our parents.

In short, we were told we could have the world, and unsurprisingly, we're getting more than a little anxious out about the idea that we won't be so fortunate.

What I mean by this is that I think it's a myth that the majority of Millennials have some sort of burning desire to rage against the machine by retreating into some sort of minimalistic bohemian lifestyle. I've got a sinking suspicion it's quite the contrary.

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Most of Generation Y simply wants what our parents had. A graduation met with impending job prospects, a steady source of engaging employment, health benefits and a retirement plan, a partner, homeownership, a family, and a two-car garage.

To be frank, all we really want is for that ugly lie our high school guidance councillors told us in senior year "if you go to a good university and work hard, doors will open for you," to be true.

But it's not.

Instead, thanks to a particularly nasty and seemingly irreversible combination of inflation and recession, the North American dream that was enjoyed by the Baby Boomers seems to be becoming more and more unattainable with each passing year.

I'm sure many will brush these frustrations off as nothing more than the ramblings of an overly entitled generation of suburbans unwilling to pull themselves up by those same bootstraps that they did, but let's take a quick look at the numbers.

In 1979 it took roughly 800 hours of minimum wage work to earn the cost of bachelors' degree ($2,568), by 2012 the cost had risen to 2,200 hours ($22,324). As a consequence, most current post-secondary students are forced to take on lofty loans to cover the spread, leaving Millennials in a situation where over half of us will owe upwards of $20,000 when we finally enter that increasingly barren job market.

As for housing costs, the average Canadian home in 1984 cost $76,214, adjusted for inflation that's $154,587. Yet in 2012, the actual average was more like $369,677 -- an annualised gain of 5.8 per cent. So while in the mid-80s a home may have cost a family around 1.6 times its annual income, the multiple today is somewhere closer to 6.

Thus when it comes time to approach an insolvent and saturated job market ripe with 14.1 per cent youth unemployment in our misguided attempt to make enough to pay off those loans, save for that house down payment, and eat regularly, we're increasingly met with hiring freezes, short-term contracts, unpaid internships, underemployment, and unemployment altogether.

In my opinion, this unapologetic letter by an anonymous Millennial on the difficulties of landing that first job serves as the perfect snapshot for the perpetually frustrating and utterly distressing process of entering adulthood for our generation.

Yet we march onward, labelled as lazy and spoiled by an older generation who could pay tuition in a few summers, afford a house by 30, and enjoy full benefits coupled with a fully functional and institutionally preserved social safety net. No matter how hard we work, these goals are unrealistic for most of us -- this is not some apathetic plea for pity, it's a reflection of our current socio-economic reality.

And with this reality showing no real signs of the drastic reversion necessary for us Millennials to build more financially stable foundations anytime soon, perhaps it's time for us to stop clinging to that unsustainable and excessive status quo set by the Baby Boomers in the feeble hope that we'll someday be invited to re-perpetuate it.

Perhaps it's time to stop squirming and come to terms with the realization that the excessive consumption and political anachronism that has come to embody our parents' generation is nothing to aspire to, and in fact cannot -- nor should not, be repeated.

Instead, we've got a golden opportunity to re-define how we conceptualise key pillars of society such as wealth, environmental mindfulness, and political engagement.

Let me be clear -- I'm not advocating the manifestation of some instantaneous socialist utopia where the grass is green, the birds are chirping, and the workers have broken their chains. What I am saying is much more attainable than that.

Wealth shouldn't be a 5,000 square ft. home with three SUVs, when a modest bungalow and a smart car will do just fine, environmental mindfulness shouldn't be "greener" oil when plausible renewable solutions exist, and political engagement shouldn't be sheepishly voting for whatever candidate we're presented with when a democratic government is supposed to serve citizens with its policies, not the other way around.

We're equipped like no other generation to do this. All these technologies we're supposed to be thankful for -- the ones which we've unknowingly traded in our right to a real job or home in order to enjoy, serve as tools that can allow us Millennials to connect our minds and our movements around the world in order to take back our indefinitely postponed futures.